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Quad FMs, wary of China’s might, push Indo-Pacific options


NEW DELHI — Top diplomats from Australia, India, Japan and the United States said on Friday their Indo-Pacific-focused bloc was not aimed at countering China, but issued a statement filled with buzzwords and phrases that reflect growing unease about China’s influence in the region.

Meeting in New Delhi, the four foreign ministers barely mentioned China by name and insisted that the so-called “Quad” group is designed to enhance their own national interests and improve those of others through enhanced cooperation in non-military areas.

Yet their comments at a joint public event and the written statement made it clear that the grouping exists to be an alternative to China with repeated references to the importance of democracy, the rule of law, maritime security and the peaceful settlement of disputes, all of which Beijing considers. with suspicion coming from the members of the Quad.

“We strongly support the principles of freedom, rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resort to the threat or use of force and freedom of navigation and overflight, and we oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, all of which are essential to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” the ministers said in the statement.

In a direct shot at China, which has become increasingly aggressive in the Pacific and alarmed its smaller neighbors by pushing claims over disputed maritime areas, ministers said they viewed with concern “the challenges to the ‘rules-based maritime order, including in the South’. and East China Seas.

“We strongly oppose any unilateral action aimed at changing the status quo or increasing tensions in the region,” they said. “We express serious concern over the militarization of contested elements, the dangerous use of Coast Guard vessels and maritime militias, and efforts to disrupt the offshore resource exploitation activities of other countries.”

China has been accused of doing all three. In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized the Quad, saying “cooperation between countries should conform to the trend of the times for peace and development and should not engage in exclusive cliques” .

“We hope relevant countries will do something conducive to enhancing regional countries’ security and mutual trust and maintaining regional peace and stability,” ministry spokesman Mao said. Ning during a daily briefing.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meanwhile accused the US of ‘attempting to militarize Quad’, an accusation also often leveled by Beijing that America is trying to set up a new NATO-like alliance. in Asia to counter China in the region.

In an indirect reference to China, as well as Russia, which has blocked action in the UN Security Council and other institutions on issues ranging from Ukraine to Myanmar to South Korea North, trade, technology and health, the Quad’s foreign ministers said they “commit to cooperate in dealing with attempts to unilaterally overthrow the UN and the international system.

And just a day after China and Russia blocked the Group of 20 largest industrialized and developing countries from adopting a joint statement on Russia’s war on Ukraine, the Quad specifically endorsed the language that Beijing and Moscow objected. This included a line that read, “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is impermissible.”

“We stressed the need for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations,” they added, repeating another line that China and Russia have refused to take. accept at Thursday’s G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting, also held in the Indian capital.

Speaking on a panel at India’s Raisina Dialogue, the four ministers argued that the Quad did not seek to clash with or antagonize China, but rather to promote democracy, good governance, transparency , digital security, global health and disaster relief.

“As long as China abides by international law and standards and acts in accordance with international institutional norms, it is not a contentious issue between China and the Quad,” Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa said in a rare reference. direct to China.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the group was not designed to curb China’s rise by demanding countries align themselves with Quad members or Beijing.

“Our proposal is not to tell countries in the region ‘You have to choose’,” he said. “Our proposal is to offer a choice, a positive alternative.”

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar agreed.

“I prefer to think about what we are for, not what we are against,” Wong said.

“We offer more choices,” Jaishankar said. “We collectively offer something different. Countries are interested, many of them see the Indo-Pacific as a changing theater and how to define themselves.


Associated Press writer Krutika Pathi contributed to this report.

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